Ehren Helmut Pflugfelder

In 2022, I taught Technical Writing for Engineers, one of several special sections of the course we offer specifically for engineering majors. One main project in that course involved students designing, producing, and testing paper airplanes made from a single roll (or less) of toilet paper. Students adhered to a spec sheet, documented their builds, prepared a design report of their decisions, and tested their airplanes in the Student Experience Center lobby, launching them from the second floor. After data was collected, students were assigned a follow-up performance report based upon another student’s design report, toilet paper airplane, and data. Photos are available here:

In 2021, students in the graduate section of The Teaching of Writing (WR 511) and I scripted a video for SLWF’s Oregon State Guide to Grammar video series. We researched about code-meshing and code-switching, wrote the script for the video, and provided examples for the final production. The video was made live here:

In 2020, during the time when courses were being taught via distance education, I shifted the Environmental Writing (WR 462/562) field trip to a weekly individual field trip. This assignment asked students to build a quadrat (a 2’ x 2’ square frame frequently used in population sampling) and place their quadrat in the same place for 9 weeks. Students took notes, photographs, and wrote weekly journal entries for each week, focusing on themes that ranged from sensory experiences, species identification, and ecological concepts. Maps of their quadrat journals can be found here:

Maybe not one of the most research-intensive projects I’ve completed recently, but certainly one of the most fun, was a brief lecture for OSU’s video-based Guide to Literary Terms. Here, I chat about genre for a few minutes, describing it from the perspective of literary and rhetorical analysis.

One of the research projects I worked on was a study of the #14gallons risk communication project begun by Oregon Public Broadcasting. It served as a way to help people who live in the Pacific Northwest spread the word about the need to have 14 gallons of potable water in the event of a “full rip” Juan de Fuca earthquake. The threat is real, but many people are not prepared. The study I conducted involved some hashtag tracking and then some analysis, using a modified version of Laurie Gries’ concept of iconographic tracking. I’m presenting that work at the International Environmental Communication Association‘s (IECA) biannual conference, the Conference on Communication and Environment (COCE). Feel free to watch it in its entirety here.

In 2017-2018, I worked on a project that involved my Science Writing (WR 362) students, the curators for several of the natural history collections at OSU, and a photography course taught by Evan Baden. Our goal was to write the chapters for a book detailing the natural history collections at OSU, and inspiring the photography class to document what we investigated through writing. While the book project is still ongoing (we hope to have a home for it soon), one of Evan’s former students produced a short documentary about the process.

In the winter of 2017, I taught a course that focused on contemporary rhetoric theory and my choice of focus was material rhetorics. The students in that course read and discussed epistemic rhetoric, the rhetoric of science, assemblage theory, rhetorical ecologies, and more. We decided to publish our final papers in the course as a material object – something that could go out into the world after the course was over. hat edited collection is now available on Amazon and is called Assembling Oregon: Material Rhetoric in the Pacific Northwest. The book includes chapters on a plethora of topics from a material rhetoric perspective. Some focus on Corvallis, the town where Oregon State University is located, some analyze Portland, the hipster capital of the world, and some address topics significant to other locations throughout Oregon. Together, they represent a range of material rhetoric investigations about the state. Perhaps more importantly, however, they also represent the hard work, thoughtful critiques, and insightful readings of students in the MA in English at OSU. All proceeds from the sale of this book fund graduate student travel.

Back in 2016, I helped lead students through a digital humanities project in a course I co-taught with Dr. Ray Malewitz, ENG 485/585, Introduction to Digital Humanities. The course moved from theory to practice, with a specific focus on student-driven digital humanities projects built around available archival material for the noted author Bernard Malamud. The larger focus of the second half of this course was the creation of small-group digital humanities projects – each focusing on the work, life, and context of Bernard Malamud’s time at Oregon State University (1949-1961). We focused special attention to the time he spent teaching, writing, and living in Corvallis and centered upon his 1961 academic novel A New Life, written about OSU. The digital humanities projects are available here:

In the spring of 2018, I participated in a roundtable discussion on athletics and rhetorics at the Conference on College Composition and Communication. Our roundtable was called “I write with my Bike: Visualizing the Labor of Community Performances” and my part of the panel was called “Strava or it Didn’t Happen: the Kinetic Energy of Rhetorical Performance.”

When I teach WR 362, Science Writing, I ask students to complete a number of science journalism assignments, including a short article on new discoveries in scientific fields and a longer article on a topic of their own choosing. This feature article is then published on a science writing magazine site called Castor. Castor is an online magazine of science writing composed, edited, and designed by undergraduate students at Oregon State University. Focusing on long-form feature articles about science topics, Castor seeks to provide the northwest with the quality science writing. All of the writing in Castor comes from students in  WR 362, Science Writing, a course offered in the School of Writing, Literature, and Film.  Throughout the term, students work hard to investigate, research, and write the best science writing this side of the Cascades.

In 2013, I taught a course called WR 497/497, Digital Literacy and Culture, and we chose to explore the impact cell phones have on our lives through a video documentary project. The resulting video was made up of dozens of interviews that students conducted and shot on their own cell phones. The questions asked by students in the video Does your Smartphone Make you Smarter? were generated collaboratively in order to get at some of the more unusual ways that cell phones shape our lives. The video project was developed partly as a way to help students open the black boxes of their cell phones (without literally taking them apart). I have also written about this project here.

Pflugfelder, Ehren Helmut, Scott Catchpole, Gail Cole, Brendan Hansen, Chad Iwertz, Jessica Kibler, Sarah Mosser, Don Ridge, and Corey Taylor. Does your Smartphone Make you Smarter? (2013, September 22). [Video file].


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